Learn from the Best
Looking for inspiration for your first competitive run? Then I doubt you can ask tips to someone more suitable than Stefano Baldini, Olympic champion in the Men’s Marathon in Athens, Half-Marathon World Champion, twice European Champion, 13 times Italian Champion and coming from an Italian Region, Emilia, that is sunny, joyful and open like him.
The 8th of 11 children, himself father of 3 and in constant contact with young people for his job as Coach of the Junior National Team of Athletics, Baldini is an optimist and a social animal.
During his career Stefano ran about 180,000 kilometres in both training and competition covering a distance which is four and a half times as long as the earth’s circumference. And he’s still running! He’s just completed his 8th New York Marathon – for charity, this time.
We don’t change the world with our job – sometimes I need to play down the importance of running because people take it too seriously or want it all too quickly, Baldini says. But a sport competition at any level does help. Being able to give your best is what makes a difference in life, for young people and for everybody.
A Chat with Stefano
I asked Baldini to give our readers some tips to start running for a real competition.
Beatrice: Do we all need to be competitive, also people who are not like that by nature?
Stefano: Of course not everybody is a champion. But competition teaches you to accept defeats. We all learn more from that, than from a victory. A challenge, a disappointment: that’s the moment that teaches you something. We need to get used to handle this pressure, get up again after falling, to constantly improve whatever we are good at.
The 10 Tips for your First Half-Marathon
- A well supported shoe, a bit heavier (about 300 gr) for long, slow runs;
- A lighter one for fast trainings or competition;
- A trail running shoe, to run on trails and enjoying the outdoors;
- A neutral running shoe (zero-drop, which means rather flat), to stimulate the use of your foot.
Top runners also need really light shoes (about 200 gr) that just last 100 km. Obviously, this shoes are not necessary for a beginner. But they look good to wear with jeans!
Look at my wrist – I love my Garmin Forerunner 630. Investing in the right gadgets is a big help for motivations and to monitor your performance.
4. Coach/Training. Online programs can be good enough for a beginner, but having a person who guides you and decides a program for you is ideal and will make it much more likely for you to be remain disciplined and stick to it.
In order to support your training you need the right nutrition. A specialist will see what you might be missing in your daily diet, and add supplements. For example you might have little time at lunch, so you will need to take something specific. In theory, a healthy person with good eating habits won’t need anything else. In practice, modern life (lack of time,of fresh ingredients , etc.) makes most of us in need of supplements.
Again a part not to underestimate. Get enough fluids before and during your training, and salt if necessary. A nutritionist with help you for this too.
I do 5 minutes of stretching before running, and 10 after. Don’t forget stretching to prevent injuries and recover faster.
8. Other Sports
Swimming, riding a bike, going to the gym aren’t missed trainings – they are additional trainings, good for your running too. Do alternate sports for best performance.
9. Run Together
Find one or more running companions or join a running club. It’s much more fun and a better level of training.
There are so many fabrics today, that running without feeling wet or uncomfortable became much easier. Buying something beautiful also helps the ego and therefore your motivation and ultimately your sport performance too. Indulge in sport fashion, if you wish, and have a great competition!